Rolf Peterson graduated from Berlin High School in 1957. Not having an interest in college, he joined the Navy. While serving his country he began to realize he had the intelligence to go to college. After the Navy he enrolled at Oshkosh State College (now UW-Oshkosh). He received a Bachelor of Science Degree and then went on to graduate school at the U. of Iowa. His first year was very difficult and he was on probation and then failed his first dissertation defense. With determination he pressed on and later had his M.A. thesis published during the 4th year of the program. He received his PhD., Clinical Psychology from the University of Iowa in 1970.
In his early years, he focused on child clinical research. He spent two years as a visiting lecturer at the University of Western Australia (Perth) and began to develop a strong focus on adult health psychology. After returning to the states, he joined the Chicago Medical School as Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Training (DOCT). He also served as Department Chair, 1984-86. While there he continued work with a colleague doing research on Anxiety Sensitivity and was the first author of the original ASI manual.
In 1986 he joined the Department of Psychology at George Washington University as Professor and DOCT. He remained in this position until 2005, also serving as Acting Department Chair for three years. Dr. Peterson served on several special ad hoc appeal committees and a variety of other university and department committees, many American Psychological Association committees and served as Chair of the Site Visit Team to over 20 universities for the Committee on Accreditation for the APA, until his retirement in 2013.
Dr. Peterson was a licensed Psychologist his entire career and also Board Certified in Clinical Health Psychology. He is author or co-author on over 100 research and scholarly publications. He was the Dissertation Director for 81 students over a 44 year span.
In 2012 Dr. Peterson received “Outstanding Leadership and Dedication to Board Certification” Award from the American Board of Clinical Health Psychology. Upon retirement the Psychology Department at George Washington University created the ‘Rolf A. Peterson Scholarship for Doctoral Students at the Meltzer Center’ (the Psychology Department Clinic).
Dr. Peterson’s accomplishments are inspirational given the fact that he was Learning Disabled throughout his student life struggling academically through elementary school, high school and beyond.